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During 2002 local watershed stakeholders and city and state resource managers worked to gather data and outline a plan to restore the Ellerbe Creek Watershed. This document represents the culmination of the efforts undertaken by the Ellerbe Creek Stakeholders group to evaluate the varied sources of water quality degradation and to recommend a comprehensive set of strategies to address the water quality problems within Ellerbe Creek.

SECTION 1

Presents the context of the Ellerbe Creek Local Watershed Plan. Ellerbe Creek is one of 28 local watersheds that drain into the Falls Lake Reservoir. The Upper Neuse River Basin Association, created in 1996, initiated a Watershed Management Plan for the entire upper Neuse River Basin, the Falls Lake Watershed. As part of the data analysis for this project, Ellerbe Creek was identified as having the highest percentage of impervious surfaces and delivering the highest nutrient loads to the Falls Lake water supply reservoir. As a result of these and other findings, the North Carolina Wetlands Restoration Program initiated the Ellerbe Creek Local Watershed Plan to analyze water quality issues within the Ellerbe Creek Watershed.

SECTION 2

Summarizes the current conditions in the Ellerbe Creek watershed including hydrology, geology, water quality, human impacts, natural heritage and history of the watershed. The Ellerbe Creek Watershed is a predominately urban 23,526-acre watershed located within the upper Neuse River Basin in Durham County, North Carolina. Its headwaters and half of its watershed are located within Durham’s city limits. Approximately 47,540 people live within the watershed. Ellerbe Creek's watershed is 16% forested, 1.25% agricultural with the rest being urban or residential. The Ellerbe Creek watershed is currently 22% impervious and projected to increase to 27.5% by 2025. Water quality in Ellerbe Creek is not supporting its designated uses and will not improve without appropriate water quality protection measures.

SECTION 3

Explains the Goals of the Ellerbe Creek Local Watershed Plan. The stakeholders identified the following five major goals.

OVERALL GOAL: PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

This is a unifying goal that embodies all of the other goals. Ellerbe Creek is impaired because its natural flow or its hydrology (in essence, the way a stream works) has been dramatically altered. Though no urban stream can be restored to its natural condition, restoring a more natural hydrology makes achieving the remaining goals more possible.

GOAL 1: PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

Ellerbe Creek’s impairment is called "Biological Impairment" because its water quality and lack of natural habitat make it difficult for aquatic life to survive. Any real improvement in the creek must be measured by how well aquatic life can survive and flourish.

SECTION 3 (cont.)
 
GOAL 2: PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

Flooding is a natural process necessary to provide habitat and maintain water quality. However, in an urbanized environment such as Ellerbe Creek, flooding can be a destructive force to the built environment and the people who live there. Two keys to this plan are to find areas that can flood without causing property damage and to initiate projects that reduce the volume of stormwater entering streams.

GOAL 3: PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

Ellerbe Creek is an underutilized resource. Despite its water quality problems, there are many opportunities for passive recreation along its banks. To the degree that people find Ellerbe Creek to be an amenity and not an eyesore they will become more involved in its protection.

GOAL 4: PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

Many Durham residents know very little about Ellerbe Creek or how their day to day activities affect it. To that end the Ellerbe Stakeholders group seeks to inform the public about Ellerbe Creek.

GOAL 5 PROTECT WATERSHED FUNCTIONS

Ellerbe Creek contributes a large pollutant load to Falls Lake. A goal of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Plan is to reduce the amount of pollution entering this reservoir.

SECTION 4

Outlines the recommendations to protect Ellerbe Creek. With Ellerbe Creek’s need for water quality improvement, it is the intent of the Ellerbe Creek Local Watershed Plan to identify a broad range of projects and activities that will meet these goals. The breadth of recommendations identified by this local watershed plan should enable city, county and state governments and their respective agencies as well as nonprofit organizations to take a series of actions to tangibly improve water quality in Ellerbe Creek.

  1. Critical Area Protection
  2. Riparian Area Management
  3. Stream and Riparian Buffer Restoration Projects
  4. Better Site Design for Stormwater Management
  5. Code and Ordinance Improvements
  6. Stormwater Retrofits
  7. Reduce Illicit Discharges
  8. Stream Monitoring
  9. Watershed Education and Stewardship Programs
  10. Erosion and Sediment Control